If you went to Ho-Hai-Yan Gongliao Rock Festival (新北市貢寮國際海洋音樂祭) last month and thought to yourself, “There are 50,000 people here and a gigantic stage, so why is no one paying attention to the music?”, you were probably aching for live music with an actual scene attached to it. In this summer of government-sponsored rock festivals, that has been hard to come by. This weekend, however, you’ll get a chance to feel authentically dirty, sweaty and properly indie with a bunch of like-minded rockers at Beastie Rock, a three-day, 100-band festival near Tamsui (淡水). Now in its second year, it will bring some pretty decent rock bands from Japan, South Korea, Macau and Malaysia, in addition to top local indie groups, including LTK (濁水溪公社), The White Eyes (白目), Skaraoke, My Skin Against Your Skin and many more. The festival is fast posing itself as — dare I say it? — the Spring Scream of the north.
The event’s organizer is a man who has rather ambitiously named himself Indie Lord (音地大帝). His personality does not live up to the bombast, and to many he is just another of those anonymous figures who sits until late, late at night drinking near the DJ booth at Underworld. Indie Lord got into the indie scene as a DJ on an illegal radio station more than a decade ago. For pirate radio, he’d interview local bands and showcase their music. Once the government closed such stations down, he continued to produce interviews for the Internet, both as audio podcasts and streaming video. Some of them appeared on the popular music portal, Indievox.com.
Earlier this summer, local media reported that nearly a dozen government-sponsored music festivals around Taiwan would showcase over 700 bands over the summer. Indie Lord did not see this as a cause for huge optimism.
“This society needs music festivals, but it doesn’t need bands,” he says. “Official festivals just need a lot of people, but it doesn’t matter what is happening there artistically. I thought of getting money from the government or sponsors, but I knew they’d make certain requests and I didn’t really want to deal with that. The advantage of doing this independently is that we have fewer restrictions.”
“Really,” he says, “I’m just trying to create a vibe that people will be into.”
Last year, at a grassy site next to the Tamsui River, the vibe was definitely fun and music oriented. The festival was ragtag, with only a few vendors and improvised stages. One stage was a truck that opens hydraulically into a gaudy, neon-lit karaoke stage – a contraption often used in countryside festivals. But the beer was extremely cheap (five cans for NT$100) and there were some very memorable performances by the kinds of international bands who would have a strong local followings in nearby regional scenes like South Korea and Japan.
This year, bands to look out for include Japan’s Uchikubigokumon-Doukoukai, a punk-metal group with sound that’s both catchy and mosh-friendly. Uchikubi features both male and female vocals — just a touch of cutesy yin in what’s otherwise some very yang music — and have played a slew of major Japanese festivals, including Fuji Rock. Also check out Macau’s Forget the G, which brought to mind memories of Faith No More when they played Ho-Hai-Yan last month. On the whole, expect a bit more punk and metal than your typical government rock fest, though there will also be ska, hip hop and the odd acoustic guitar strummer — in indie rock terms, a bit of something for everyone.
Beastie Rock (巨獸搖滾) is Aug. 24 to 26, starting early evening Friday and early afternoon on Saturday and Sunday. The location is a three-minute walk from the Tamsui MRT Station. Three-day tickets are NT$1,400, single day tickets for Friday are NT$400, and single-day tickets for Saturday or Sunday are NT$800. On the Net: www.beastierock.tw
International acts will come fast and furious this fall. With new, bigger venues like Neo 19, consistently strong attendance for touring acts, and a general maturation of the scene, Taipei is now getting bands that only a few years ago seemed like they’d never play here. Now they’re showing up on a regular basis.
The biggest announcement of late is a power line-up of North American indie bands from the 90s. And They Shall Knows is by the Trail of Dead, Thurston Moore (from Sonic Youth) and Dinosaur Jr. will play together in a showcase called Don’t Look Back, Vol. 1 at Neo Studio on Nov. 11 (NT$3,000, NT$2,800 in advance. On the Net: littleu.utiki.com.tw). This one definitely gets two thumbs up. It’s brought to us by Earwax, a promotional company that also brought No Age and Deerhunter to Taipei.
Extreme metal is also on tap, and that comes much sooner. UK grindcore band Napalm Death plays next Friday, Aug. 31 at The Wall (NT$1,500, NT$1,200 in advance. On the Net: www.indievox.com.tw). “They’re as extreme as it gets,” says Andrew Hsieh, vocalist of thrash metal band Masquerader, who’ll be warming up, along with Ashen. “Napalm Death has been going for about 30 years and is one of my favorite bands,” says Hsieh. “They’re known for the high-pitched, growling vocals, and they’re really the first band that brought that kind of vocal style.” The show should provide all you heads with your metal fix, at least until Cannibal Corpse comes on Oct. 22, also at The Wall (details to be announced).
Britrock’s “other piano band,” Keane, will come on Sep. 22 to Taipei Show Hall II (NT$1,500 to NT$3,800. On the Net: www.ticket.com.tw). If you like Coldplay, Oasis and other tuneful British music, but are looking for something fresher, you will love Keane, a four-piece with no guitars from East Sussex, UK. Still more pop and one week later in the same venue, the Los Angeles boy band Maroon 5 will perform on Sept. 29 (NT$2,500 to NT$4,000. On the Net: www.g-music.iticket.com.tw).